La Mesa veteran’s hall celebrates anniversaries of longstanding service organizations

Photo by B.J. Coleman. Brigadier General Head (USAF, Ret.) at the podium of La Mesa American Legion Post 282 on Tuesday, September 24, speaking about the short but renowned career of German World War I fighter pilot Oswald Boelcke.

During the evening of September 24, La Mesa American Legion Post 282 staged a joint celebration of the Legion’s Centennial year, in conjunction with honoring the 120th anniversary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. La Mesa Post 282 and VFW Ship 1774 are two of the largest organizations located in the American Legion Hall at 8118 University Avenue.

The presentations provided overviews of reasons for founding of both organizations. Jack Porath, Commander of Post 282, welcomed attendees. “I believe this is the first joint meeting of our organizations,” Porath said. (Porath further serves as VFW Captain at the facility.)

Porath introduced Post 282 Historian Mike Seiler, who began by noting that the VFW was founded in 1899, and The American Legion dates to 1919. Seiler first provided an account of disturbing events during the Spanish-American War in and around the Philippines. Filipino guerrillas and insurrectionists attacked American troops, and other U.S. forces retaliated. A lasting point of post-war contention was rectified in 2018, as the Bells of Balagiga were repatriated after these church bell had been in U.S. possession for 117 years.

During The American Legion portion of the evening program, Brigadier General Head (USAF, Ret.) spoke about famed World War I combat pilot Oswald Boelcke. This German fighter pilot from the early 20th century is credited with 40 victories and is considered the “Father of Air Fighting Tactics.” According to Gen. Head, that manual of tactics, known as the Dicta Boelcke, is still used for training in Top Gun naval aviator classes. Gen. Head further noted that Boelcke exemplified great personal character, demonstrating honor and chivalry even in warfare. He received multiple awards and other citations for valor, including the Pour le Merite “The Blue Max.”

Boelcke perished at the age of 25 from a midair collision. His British fighter pilot counterparts from the Royal Flying Corps sent a memorial wreath to his funeral, with a ribbon inscribed to “Our Brave and Chivalrous Opponent.”